Domination and desire in everyday Luanda
(LAM | CNRS)
Paper short abstract:
“They have the money, they decide”, says the resigned resident expropriated from the city centre. “Now I have a house, my life starts”, says the satisfied homeowner in a new suburban housing project. This paper explores the urban and political contradictions of hope and submission in Luanda, Angola.
Paper long abstract:
This paper is based on ethnographic immersion in a central neighbourhood of Luanda called Coreia (Angola). In 2010, a Presidential Decree earmarked Coreia for the construction of the city's New Political and Administrative Centre. Residents were helpless and despite an attempt to collectively oppose to the project, all have now been expropriated, only waiting for their final eviction. In the meantime, low cost residential developments are being erected on the urban fringe to house those who cannot afford to live in the centre anymore. Some "Coreians" have moved there, where they intend to start a new life and regain their dignity. To explore the political identities that accompany the "great transformation" (Polanyi, 1944) of Luanda, I use the concept of "propertied citizenship" (Roy, 2003; Lund, 2006; Holston, 2008). I argue that the political dimension of homeownership is even stronger in a context of urban vulnerability and strict political control. Mundane practices of home making are likely to map out new political subjectivities that are based on a sense of belonging and of respectability. Domestic spaces - while often ignored in political theories - become original signifiers of the ambiguities of self-discipline and community ordering on the one hand, and of political obedience and resistance to domination on the other hand. Ethnographic material collected about urban daily life both on the ground and on Facebook tells the story of the everyday struggle to achieve one's most cherished desire: make home; and the heavy price paid for it: freedom and autonomy.
Political subjectivities in resource-rich authoritarian countries